The development and consequences of stereotype consciousness in middle childhood

These studies examined the development of stereotype awareness and stereotype threat in children. As children become aware that other individuals might believe in and use stereotypes, susceptibility to stereotype threat might increase. In Experiment 1, children about 6-10 years with stigmatized (Black, Latino, Native American) and nonstigmatized (White, Asian-American) ethnic identities completed one task requiring them to infer another person's stereotype, and a second task to assess awareness of widely held cultural stereotypes. Results showed that awareness of other's stereotypes increased dramatically between six and ten years of age. A similar effect was found for awareness of cultural stereotypes, but stigmatized children showed greater awareness of these stereotypes at every age. In Experiment 2, the same children from the first experiment were asked to complete two tasks: one involved writing letters backward under limited time, and a second involved identifying which one of four words did not belong with the others. The tests were described as being either diagnostic of ability (stereotype threat for members of stigmatized groups) or not diagnostic of ability (control). Performance on the writing task, but not the word puzzle, was affected by stigmatized status, test description, and awareness of cultural stereotypes. For children aware of stereotypes, performance was lower for those with stigmatized ethnicities than for those with nonstigmatized ethnicities, but only when the test was described as diagnostic. There were no differences in performance between these groups of children when the test was described as nondiagnostic of ability. These results indicate that awareness of broadly held stereotypes is a precondition for stereotype threat effects and also show that this awareness, and hence vulnerability, increases with age.

McKown, C., & Weinstein, R. S. (2003). The development and consequences of stereotype consciousness in middle childhood. Child Development, 74, 498-515.

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